B L Saraf
A heinous crime allegedly committed on a girl child has, unfortunately, triggered a political war of sorts between some sections of our society, manifesting itself in Kathua area of the Jammu Province. As an ugly consequence, a large section of population of the Village Rassana has moved out; reminding one of the darkest period of 1990. District Kathua is up in agitation as people feel that local police has not been fair to the persons arrested in connection with investigation of the crime, and a demand for handing over investigation to the CBI has been raised. On the other hand some people have reposed faith in local police and want them to go on with the investigation. Not to rest at that, we witness an unfortunate situation developing where two sections of the society evaluate this incident from contesting positions.
What can one say of a society which has no compunction in taking up adversarial positions even in a matter as despicable as rape and death of a girl child? Rape is a crime which not only violates victim physically but is an assault on her total being. We witness barbarity when the child is done to death, in a bid to wipe out traces of the heinous crime. The act lacerates society as a whole. It doesn’t stigmatize victim alone but shames us all.
It is unfortunate that some in Jammu region see to the religion of the accused to conjure up a threat to the demography of the area. Well, we do not know who has committed the crime but it will be a travesty if such an argument is raised to grant immunity to the persons accused of a diabolical act. Similarly, for some in Kashmir the depravity of the crime is not that important as the faith to which the unfortunate victim belonged. So, a cry is raised to protect faith from being displaced. Some find it opportune to resurrect their failing political fortunes. Having no business at all, some unrelated people living far away in Poonch and Rajouri are making a beeline to Khatua and muddying the waters.
Is this other aspect of collateral damage the three decade old conflict has inflicted on us? The constant violence – physical and psychological – created by the ongoing conflict has built in us a sense of a fear, vulnerability and helplessness. We have become desensitized even to ourselves and feel happy to construct “the other “to make him an object of suspicion and accusation. We have been afflicted with a malaise that even a crime against women is taken as an object to raise passions against one another and set up competing political postures. Far too extraneous and inappropriate matters are interjected in to deflect the real issue. That a heinous offence like rape and death of a girl child should be used to further political ends is beyond comprehension. One must understand that in this political game only beneficiary is the perpetrator of crime. Our quest to outsmart one another on a political chess board will only end up in denying justice to the very person for whom we claim to stand up – be he /she a victim or an accused.
It is so tragic that veneer of morality is falling apart. Such is the extent that even State’s intelligentsia views the matter in religious and regional terms which ought to be seen in unadulterated terms as a heinous crime committed on a teenage girl. There is imperative need to consider it as a crime committed by a demented person or persons against us all. That factor alone should determine our response to this inhuman act.
CM Mehbooba Mufti has very rightly said that the Kathua incident should not be given a communal color. While emphasizing so, the C M must ensure that an unbiased, highly professional, transparent and time bound investigation is initiated and brought to the logical end. That alone will help State Government reclaim confidence of all and sooth raised passions.
Crime is community, caste and creed neutral. There should not be a selective indignation nor a community based approach towards it. Nature of the crime committed on a teen aged girl is as much anger arousing, across the board, as it was in Nirbhya’s case. It is time for all of us to rise in one and demand that the perpetrators of the crime, whoever they may be, be brought to the justice. As, whole nation stood against the perpetrators of Nirbhaya crime in December, 2012. Nobody thought of religion of the victim or the accused then and nobody should think in these terms now.
Jammu has shown remarkable tradition of communal harmony at a time when things were so bad all over. Whoever, irrespective of his faith, came here to take refuge was taken in a loving fold. People here stood like a rock to defend one another despite numerous provocations and kept flag of pluralism flying high. It is our duty to protect that glorious image of Jammu. Right thinking people will have to stand up and speak for the cause of justice. Politicking can wait for other day.
Let some stitches remain there to hold together our worn out social fabric. We must strengthen social camaraderie to prevail over unhealthy acrimony.
(The author is former District & Sessions Judge)
B L Saraf